Volume 16, Number 7
The town kicked off the comprehensive transportation plan study Friday at the town board’s planning retreat with a short overview of the study’s components and time frame.
Scott Lane, formerly with the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, said the objectives are to make the plans more accessible, to integrate all the current plans and update them, to look for new opportunities caused by change and to work with the public.
“We are updating four or five other plans,” Lane said. “There’s going to be a pretty skinn printed report and most of it will be online.” He said, “I’ve always been impressed with you folks” and said there will be a public workshop in August.
The town has a new transportation planning manager, Suzette Morales, and people can call her at 919-435-9512 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Lane is with the firm Stantec, and he can be reached at 919-865-7387 or email@example.com.
Commissioner Brian Pate said one of the biggest problems is that South Franklin Street runs from Rogers Road but is not yet connected to the N.C. 98 Bypass. Also, “One of the challenges is all of this connectivity.” That leads to drivers speeding through neighborhoods to avoid the major roads. “We have to figure out some kind of traffic calming.
Mayor Vivian Jones said, “People-oriented streets are better than traffic-oriented streets.” And, “Urbanists say density is better because people don’t use their cars when they live in a high-density place.”
Commissioner Bridget Wall-Lennon said there are no turn lanes on side streets for getting onto Rogers Road, and Chip Russell, the director of the Development Department, said there will be transit in the transportation plan.
Russell then led the discussion about affordable housing, also called workforce housing. (Note: On Monday the Wake County commissioners approved a grant of $84,000 to Habitat for Humanity of Wake County to purchase six lots on Caddell Street, the Hargrove’s Corner subdivision created by the Town of Wake Forest as part of the Caddell Street reconstruction. Habitat will assure the houses remain affordable.)
Workforce housing is described as houses public and service sector employees can afford, meaning those households earning 80 to 120 percent of the area’s median income or roughly $60,000 to nearly $90,000. Those earning mean people can afford houses between $180,000 to $270,000.
A study in 2014 showed that 52 percent of the homes, including townhomes, in Wake Forest are workforce housing. There were then 1,284 market-rate apartments within reach, and the town has 268 subsidized units and 144 public housing units. However, the percentage of workforce housing is decreasing and there is a low vacancy rate. “When one becomes available it doesn’t stay available long. It’s gone,” Russell said. The pricing is increasing in all area home styles.
Commissioner Anne Reeve suggested little pocket neighborhoods. The town could work with “young developers that aren’t high end, just starting out.” She noted her husband, retired, was the only Home Depot employee living in town.
Pate said he had checked that morning and of the homes for sale, 327, 219 are new construction. When it gets to older homes being resold, Pate said those below $300,000 were built decades ago and need $200,000 in renovations. “They can get into the house but cannot afford to make it habitable.”
Pate suggested cottage zoning with zero lot lines, four or five homes to an acre with two to three bedrooms. He suggested small projects with 20 to 25 homes.
We have been able to do that with the flexibility of the Unified Development Ordinance, Russell said. “The market won’t do it . . .” but when you are reach, if you really want to make an impact look at land costs and prefab.’
Russell said the town can look at small acreages at the edges of its parks and other projects. “What is available that we can use for three to four houses?” They can, and have in the past, waived fees. “There’s a lot of things you can do.”
The mayor said she “does not believe that the UDO allows us to build affordable houses.” Since 1960, she said, it has been illegal to refuse to sell to minorities so developers turned to larger lots and houses. “We’re forcing builders to build houses that are very expensive.”
Russell said that was not true, that the UDO does allow for smaller lots. “We’ve got all the tools to make it happen.” One project that is workforce house is still being worked on, he said. It was named the Perry Street when it was approved last year but is now Trinity Park with 10 lots on East Perry Street.
Pate said the town could emulate Charlotte which has developed a tiny house – 600 to 800 square feet – “Can we duplicate it with $90,000 to $100,000 for the sale price?”
Eric Keravuori, the town engineer, told the commissioners about a problem they can help solve: private streets built to town standards that were built to town standards between 2001 and 2013 but never accepted by the town, in most cases to allow for more flexibility with street trees, lot lines and other items regulated by the town. The streets are owned by the homeowners’ associations.
There are seven streets in this category: Heritage Spring, Heritage Crest, Preserve at Bishop’s Grant, Heritage Landing, Heritage View Towns, Villas of Wake Forest and Cottage Towns. Ken Christie went to the commissioners last fall, asking how, when or if the town would accept Heritage Spring in Wildflower as a town street. He had already spoken with Raleigh’s public utilities department and worked to provide them with an easement to the water and sewer under the street at a cost of $4,200.
The Heritage Spring residents, mostly older people, have to pay for snow removal, trash and garbage pickup as well as street repairs.
Pate said the reason he is satisfied with making the street public “because Raleigh has come on board.”
The owners of those seven streets will have to meet several requirements, including approval by Raleigh public utilities. The item is on the town board’s agenda for Feb. 20.
Chief Financial Officer Aileen Staples went through the town’s debt position. It has $24.6 million in debt, $22.3 million of that for government activities and $2.3 million for the electric fund. “Interest rates are on the rise,” she said, and “It takes 10 cents of the tax rate (42 cents for government, 10 cents for fire protection) to pay off the debt service.”
The town’s total debt decreased by $4.2 million since last year. The total debt the town could have is $43.1 million.
Staples is planning to issue government obligation bonds worth $15,850,000 in June to pay off the town’s portion for the Rogers Road replacement $1,650,000 (the check has already gone to the state Department of Transportation), the senior center expansion $3.1 million, and the Joyner Park community house, $11.1 million. “This is the largest amount of bonds the town has ever issued.” In 2021 she anticipates selling $4,920,000 for streets and sidewalks and greenway improvements, which will exhaust the bonds approved in the 2014 referendum.
She also has or will have installment purchase agreements with banks for the street rehabilitation/road connection projects for later this year $2,250,000, the South White streetscape in 2019 $4.5 million and the fiber initiative, also in 2019 $2.5 million.
The town will be updating its capital improvements plan later this year. “That will probably drive another referendum because of large projects such as a new operations center and land and/or buildings for economic development.” It also may mean a tax increase, she said.
The town’s tax base is now $5.1 billion.
Inspections Director J.J. Carr ended the retreat with an update and pictures of the current town projects: the Joyner Park Community Center, renovations at the Renaissance Centre and renovations and additions at the Northern Wake Senior Center.
The Joyner Park plans are complete and bids were opened Tuesday. Construction should start the first of April and be complete by the end of May of next year.
The grand hall and second story at the Renaissance Centre will get a whole new look, including extending the stage and adding a canopy over the main entrance with new signage. It will be complete by the end of April
The senior center will have additions of 8,807 square feet and extensive interior renovations with parking expanded from 48 spaces to 109 and a new entrance on the new section of Brooks Street.
“Why has it taken so long to get started on this?” the mayor asked about the senior center. “There’s no good answer,” Carr said. “I was under the impression it was going to start sooner.”
Finally, Assistant to the Town Manager Candace R. Davis unveiled the new town limit signs for larger and smaller roads while explaining how the town is meeting its strategic goals. There will be an article about that plan and its goals next week.